Exodus 3: I Am

1Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

Warren Wiersbe’s comments about this verse are perfectly suited for those who are restless in their current position: “The man who was ‘mighty in word and deed’ is now in the lonely pastures taking care of stubborn sheep, but that was just the kind of preparation he needed for leading a nation of stubborn people” (emphasis mine). No matter what we do in life, it always has purpose. How do we know? Because Romans 8:28 reminds us that all things work together for good!

2 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. 3Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”

When I read this, it made me wonder how many bushes God has set on fire in my life that I’ve failed to recognize because I’ve refused to “turn aside and see this great sight.” Father, give us all hearts willing to see the fullness of your fire and to yield to the change it can bring to our lives.

4a So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”

4b And he said, “Here I am.”

Moses spoke three very powerful words: Here I am. So often our Lord calls us out by name and we cannot hear because of the noise in our life or the choice we have made not to listen. Surprisingly enough, we see these three words throughout Scripture. After they were spoken, great works of God occurred:

·        In Genesis 22, Abraham spoke these words to the Lord prior to the Lord instructing him to sacrifice of his son, Isaac.

·        Jacob spoke these words to Isaac, his father, in Genesis 27, when it came time for the firstborn to receive the blessing (which Esau was supposed to receive).

·        Jacob spoke these words to the Angel of the Lord in Genesis 31 concerning the dream where he and his family were called to leave and travel back to his land.  

·        These were the last recorded words Joseph spoke to his father, Israel (Jacob), prior to being sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37).

·        These were the first words Samuel ever spoke to the Lord (1 Sam. 3).

·        Ananias spoke these words to the Lord in Acts 9 right before the Lord asked him to go and baptize Saul (Paul).

·        ________________ <insert your name> spoke these words to the Lord—and the Lord did a great work in your life because of your obedience and willingness of heart.

5Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” 6Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.            

The first thing God establishes is that He is holy. To be holy means to be sacred, set apart, undefiled. In Isaiah 6:3, the seraphim flew above the Lord and called out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” There are countless descriptors of God and they are all meaningful—but let’s never forget that first and foremost He is holy. We must recognize His holiness and then move to action to honor His holiness (like Moses removing his sandals). One of the most common descriptors of God is that He is gracious, and He is! But oftentimes we can cheapen His grace because we fail to remember that He is holy and calls all of us to that same level of holiness (which is why we need grace!).

7And the Lord said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. 8So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. 9Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

I love it when the Lord reveals His vision! As I read this passage, I was reminded that the Lord sees, He hears, and He was moved to compassionate action. He didn’t just see, hear, and feel bad for them—He did something about it. In studying Hebrews 13 this past week, one thing I walked away with is that we can’t pray and then walk away. Praying for someone is an act of compassion, but we should take it a step further and be moved to action. That can be as simple as just letting that person know they were covered in your prayers. We must diligently continue loving others (Hebrews 13:1), just as God demonstrated with the Hebrews.

11But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 

The humility—and also the doubt—of Moses’s heart shines through here. “Who am I?” The 2013 interpretation of that phrase is probably “You’re crazy!”

Forty years ago, Moses stood between two Hebrew men trying to be the mediator. In his flesh, he tried to resolve their differences and invoke peace, but he was ahead of God. But now it was time and Moses was resisting! When God calls us, we must be willing to say “yes and amen.”

12 So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” 13Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”               

13Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” 

14And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 

If you haven’t heard Phillips, Craig, and Dean’s song “Great I Am,” you should definitely listen to it as it complements these verses and Isaiah 6:3 perfectly. If Moses was to represent God, he had to know the character of God—which is why he asked, “What is His name?” It is the same with us as believers. If we are to be Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), then we must know Who we represent. How do you know Him better? Acts 2:42 says, “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer” (NLT). That the perfect prescription for knowing God—and other fellow believers—better.

God told Moses He was “I AM.” He is self-existent—always was, always is, and always will be. Jesus used this same statement in John 18:6 in the garden when the guards were looking for Him. When Jesus proclaimed, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to their knees because Jesus had just affirmed His deity. It in Isaiah 45:23 and Romans 14:11, “‘As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’”

Wiersbe says this: “Moses completely missed the message of God’s name and God’s miraculous power. ‘I AM’ is all that we need in every circumstance of life, and it’s foolish for us to argue, ‘I am not’” (emphasis mine).

15Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’ 16Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt; 17and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”’

God gave Moses the exact words to say, and His statement began with reminding the Hebrews Who He was, is, and forever will be. Regardless of the trials and challenges you face in life, allow God to remind you of His everlasting faithfulness. We only need to open His Word and study it to see His beautiful character revealed.

The next time you feel like God doesn’t see what you’re going through, remember verse 16: “I have surely visited you and see what is done to you.” God sees our trials, and Psalms 56:8 assures us that He puts our tears into His bottle. He captures each and every tear we cry because He walks with us.

18 Then they will heed your voice; and you shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt; and you shall say to him, ‘The Lord God of the Hebrews has met with us; and now, please, let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand. 20So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go. 21And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. 22But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

God continues here to reveal His plan to Moses. Sometimes He just shows us the next step to take and other times He gives us a bigger picture. There are several things we can count on when God leads us into new territory: (1) There will be adversity (verse 19); (2) God will provide His favor (verse 20); (3) He will provide (verses 21 and 22). Trust in Him! Amen.